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Building a Team in Fencing?

11/29/2017, 3:15pm CST
By Suzie Riewald, USA Fencing SafeSport Coordinator

In a sport often known as primarily being focused on the individual, creating a sense of ‘team’ within our clubs is one way of deterring misconduct and support a safe, healthy and positive environment.

While we tend to think of a cohesive team only being important for team sports such as soccer, hockey, basketball or lacrosse, research tells us that cohesion can also have a positive influence in individual (or co-acting) sports such as fencing, wrestling or tennis.

What exactly is cohesion? You can think of it as the “stick togetherness” of a group.  Furthermore, cohesion can relate to how well the team “sticks together” and is united around a task or how well they stick together socially. It is important to point out these two aspects of cohesion as strategies to build a team can relate to building the social aspect of cohesion and building cohesion around a task.

Research has found many positive characteristics associated with cohesion in sport including:

  • Performance: there is a relationship between cohesion and performance, circular in nature, such that enhanced performance influences cohesion and cohesion within a team influences performance. What athlete or coach doesn’t want to improve performance?
  • Satisfaction/ Enjoyment: strong cohesion in a team relates to individual satisfaction and enjoyment. Contrast for a moment the behaviors or persona of a fencer who is satisfied with and enjoying fencing versus a fencer who is dissatisfied and not enjoying the fencing experience. Which individual is probably going to have a more positive influence on the club environment?
  • Conformity: in a cohesive group, the team has a greater influence on the individual and getting him/her to follow or conform to the group. Wow! If positive expectations regarding behavior have been established, it may be that having a “sense of team” can influence individuals to follow these positive behaviors.
  • Social Support: cohesion and social support are related. Support from coaches and fencing teammates can play a role in the climate of the club, right?
  • Jealousy: there tends to be less jealousy amongst individuals within a cohesive team. Enough said.

Take another look at the list. Many of these factors that relate to cohesion seem to align with a healthy, positive sport environment, right? Furthermore, enjoyment, social support, and conformity seem to be ‘counter’ to an environment where harassment, bullying and misconduct might occur.

But what are some ways to help create a team environment? Some suggestions of things you can DO to cultivate a fencing “team” within your club include:

  • Give your Fencing Team an Identifier: Research on cohesion finds that a sense of being distinct from others not on the team relates to increased cohesion. How can you make your team distinct? There are countless ways: create a club t-shirt, have fencers wear the same color on Fridays or have a team chant. The local soccer club where my kids have played has a club chant that every team yells at the end of EVERY practice. How unifying!
  • Create opportunities to connect socially: We want fencers to get to know each other on and off the strip. Can you organize a monthly or quarterly social opportunity? If your fencing club has members who train at different times, plan an activity that all can attend like a pancake breakfast once a year.   
  • Identify “team” goals: Since fencing clubs have such a wide range of fencers, it is tough to identify performance related goals. But, let’s think outside the box.  What about setting a team goal related to improvement? Effort in training? Sportsmanship? Supportive behaviors? Identify a goal that will be impactful in your unique situation and will serve to unite the group around a common purpose.
  • Value the fencers: Strive to make each fencer feel like a valued team member, regardless of age, ability or experience. Try to recognize each individual and provide feedback. One strategy is to make sure that each fencer is greeted when entering the club and engaged in conversation.

Now it is your turn.  Share with me some of the steps you have taken to create a fencing team within your club so I can share with our membership. Email me at

Tag(s): Blog